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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Paul Ryan channels Ronald Reagan, circa 1961: You've come a long way, baby!

by folkbum

I'm not really sure the modern GOP should be feeling good about itself, considering the fact that its leading opposition voice on health care is recycling 40-year-old predictions that have turned out not just to be false, but hilariously so.

Here's Ryan, writing in The American Spectator, invoking the Founding Fathers to bless his diatribe:
The Founders' highest hope in declaring independence from Britain, fighting the Revolution, and writing the Constitution was to secure human freedom. They established a "new order of the ages" for Americans to govern themselves in freedom, as individuals and as citizens of communities, states, and nation. There were to be no classes such as kings or nobles, clerics or intellectuals like those who ruled in old Europe by a supposed higher right. Popular consent alone would grant the power to govern Americans, and then only for a limited time between democratic elections.
Here's Reagan, via the magic of YouTube, railing against Medicare (his side lost that fight), also invoking:
In this country of ours, took place the greatest revolution that has ever taken place in the world's history, the only true revolution. Every other revolution simply exchanged one set of rules for another. But here for the first time in all the thousands of years of man's relation to man, a little group of men, the Founding Fathers, for the first time established the idea that you and I have within ourselves the God-given right and ability to determine our own destiny.

This freedom was built into our government with safeguards. We talk democracy today. And strangely we let democracy begin to assume the aspect of majority rule as all that is needed. Well, majority rule is a fine aspect of democracy provided that there are guarantees written in to our government concerning the rights of the individual
Ryan:
Public health has always been a government priority. The unquestioned power to quarantine for contagious sicknesses in order to protect the community's health has been used for centuries. Selling unwholesome food and drink, carrying on industrial trades that infect or pollute the air, as well as neglect, unskillful management, and experimentation by doctors and pharmacists have traditionally been treated as crimes and grounds for civil lawsuits. Immunization programs to protect populations against disease have long been accepted as a legitimate government service. [. . .]

I believe this [Ryan's description of "socialized" medicine] is morally and politically abhorrent to all Americans.
Reagan:
One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.

Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it.
Ryan:
America is now being pushed headlong into enacting a massive federal government-run health care program. [The House-passed] plan will undermine the excellence of American health care and displace those who are happy with their insurance coverage. (Surveys show that 80 percent or more are satisfied with their current arrangements.) It will stifle the energy and ingenuity which have given this nation's science and technology the edge in global medical research and innovation.
Reagan:
It is presented in the idea of an emergency that millions of our senior citizens are unable to provide needed medical care. But this ignores the fact that in the last decade, 127 million of our citizens [...] have come under the protection of some kind of privately-owned medical or hospital insurance. [. . .] Now in our country under our free enterprise system we have seen medicine reach the greatest heights that it has in any country in the world.
Ryan:
Their plan will insert the government between doctors and patients. This would constrain the freedom of medical providers, limit patient options, and restrict the right of patients to make personal health care decisions in consultation with their doctor.

Their plan will vastly expand the reach of government into the private lives of Americans and increase dependency on the state. Rather than help to expand people's choices, it would provide more direct benefits and establish more limitations, gatekeeping, and red tape.

The Democratic plan's bureaucratization of health care is not compassionate. Impersonal agencies, whether of governments or insurance providers, make decisions about how to heal patients not according to needs but according to budget-driven calculations. Bureaucratic indifference replaces compassionate caregiving by loved ones under a free market with a spectrum of health services. Today's bureaucratized market badly needs reform to make personalized health care possible. But their plan moves in the opposite direction.

Its logic requires government rationing of health care resources.
Reagan:
But let’s also look from the other side, at the freedom the doctor loses. A doctor would be reluctant to say this. Well, like you, I am only a patient, so I can say it in his behalf. The doctor begins to lose freedoms; it’s like telling a lie, and one leads to another. First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then the doctors aren’t equally divided geographically, so a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him you can’t live in that town, they already have enough doctors. You have to go some place else. And from here it is only a short step to dictating where he will go.

This is a freedom that I wonder whether any of us have the right to take from any human being. All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it is a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay and pretty soon your children won’t decide when they’re in school where they will go or what they will do for a living. They will wait for the government to tell them where they will go to work and what they will do.
And so on. The threats St. Ronald de Tampico leveled about government control of doctors, patients, and your children never came true. It is laughable now to think about medicare--with its lower overhead costs and sky-high patient satisfaction rates--as being the death knell of American freedom.

Reagan famously ended that recording with the oft-quoted line, "One of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” (Ryan's version: "But where will Americans go when the U.S. also has socialized health care? There will be no place of freedom left to us.") Yet here we are, and leaders in the GOP are still earnestly delivering that same line hoping Americans will fall for it this time. It wasn't going to happen then; it's not going to happen now.

Also: Paul Ryan includes in his piece a long-debunked assertion about the Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (CCER). He misstates fact in several ways. One, he claims that the CCER is "a new agency" that was "set up" by the stimulus bill passed in February. In fact, it was created in 2004, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. It also will not, as Ryan claims, "dictate the care providers may offer to beneficiaries, automatically denying treatments for certain categories of patients." There is no language in the stimulus bill banning or denying anything. (As much as conservatives are whining about Democrats' not reading the bills, it seems Ryan hasn't been reading them, either.

I suppose that makes it easier to lie and recycle Reagan's ridiculous rhetoric.

*

Aside: Isn't it funny that free-marketeer Ben Stein and the free-market zombies at The American Spectator are begging for donations? Seems that the market is sending them a message about just how popular they are, if their audience (and right-wing foundations support from folks like Scaife) can't keep them afloat?

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